Magazine article Newsweek

Gucci's G-Free Whiz

Magazine article Newsweek

Gucci's G-Free Whiz

Article excerpt

TOM FORD DIDN'T HAVE A THREAD OF experience when be decided--after studying architecture and history and a few years as an actor--to become a fashion designer. But that didn't stop him from calling New York designer Cathy Hardwick every day for a month to ask for a job. She finally agreed to see him in hope of getting rid of him. "How soon can you come up?" she groaned one day 11 years ago. He was there in two minutes - he had phoned from the lobby. "I had every intention of giving him no hope. I asked him who his favorite European designers were. He said, `Armani and Chanel.' Months later I asked him why he said that, and he said, "Because you were wearing something Armani'." Is it any wonder he got the job?

Hardwick knows firsthand how Ford can pull the right answer seemingly out of nowhere. The rest of the fashion world is just learning. Milan went nuts last March after Ford unveiled his first full clothing line as head of Gucci, the fabled but fumbling Italian accessory house. Gucci's phone circuits overloaded overnight. The show's models asked to be paid in silky lime-green shirts, velvet hip-huggers, shiny cranberry stilettos--anything from the shockingly sexy-mod line. GIVE ME GUCCI, Harper's Bazaar soon begged. Odd-shaped fashion trophies followed. At the VH1 fashion awards in December, Ford won the Fashion's Future statue. "Nice to meet you," said the award's presenter, a Gucci'd-up Madonna. "Finally." As the spring fashion shows begin next week in Italy, Ford knows he should be worried about going from unknown to Flavor of the Moment. He's seen his share of flops, perhaps none as colossal as Gucci's own near bankruptcy in the early '90s, when the once elegant house nearly sank under so much G-plated schlock. But those days seem like a monogrammed lifetime ago, what with all the celebs--including Sharon Stone and Nicole Kidman--sporting his new G-free, "retro" look. …

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